Sand River Camp: Our full report
Sand River Camp is a comfortable tented camp located on the banks of the Sand River.It is located in the quieter south-eastern corner of the Maasai Mara National Reserve, very close to the Tanzanian border, and is therefore one of the first camps in the Mara Reserve to experience the great wildebeest migration.
Sand River Camp is the sister camp of Elephant Pepper Camp in the Mara North Conservancy, Tortilis Camp in Amboseli and Elsas Kopje in Meru National Park. In 2019 it underwent a total refurbishment and is now a mixture of modern and colonial safari style, giving the air of a 1920’s safari camp but upgraded to the 21st century.
On arrival, guests are given a friendly welcome at the reception area which also has a small curio shop. Gravel and paving leads to the tented lounge, which has comfy sofas and leather armchairs, arranged to create different seating areas to relax and while away the time between safari activities. Oriental rugs are scattered on the dark wood floors and there are bookcases with books and games to keep you entertained and a small bar in the corner. Outside, there are tables and chairs under the trees, and stairs leading down to the river. To the side of the lounge, the dining tent has individual tables – both inside and outside, depending on the weather.
Sand River has 16 guest tents including one family tent. All of these spread out through the bush, along the north bank of the Sand River, and are quite far apart from each other. The camp has been divided into two parts – seven tents on one side of the main area and nine tents on the other. There is a second main area at the eastern end of the camp, which means the camp can operate as two smaller camps when busy, each with their own lounge and dining area. There is a large swimming pool to the side of the main area which has a few comfy sun loungers overlooking the river. When Expert Africa visited briefly in 2019 there were plans to build a second pool closer to the second main area, so that each “camp” would have its own pool. We found it quite a long walk from the main area to the far end of the camp, so dividing it into two gives the impression of being in a smaller more intimate camp.
Each spacious tent is raised from the ground on a low wooden platform and has a separate lounge with a sofa – some which can convert into a sofa bed, armchair and antique writing desk. The bedroom is through a canvas flap, which can be completely opened up during the day, and has a large antique wooden bed surrounded by a mosquito net. The en-suite bathroom has twin basins, a freestanding copper bath and a toilet in a separate cubicle. A glass door leads to an outdoor shower and all toiletries are provided. To the front of the tent, on the deck, are some comfortable lounge chairs where you can relax and enjoy views of the river.
The family tent is similar in décor and style and has two separate bedrooms with a central lounge area in the middle.
As the camp is within the Maasai Mara National Reserve, the activities at Sand River are predominantly safari drives in comfortable 4WD Toyota Land Cruisers. You can opt to head out for a full day with a picnic lunch or do separate morning and afternoon drives. All drives are led by experienced local Maasai guides who know the Mara ecosystem very well. It’s also possible to visit a local village and school from here.
The game viewing is good in this area and it is well known for its large concentration of big cats. During the migration, wildebeest herds often stream across the shallow Sand River from the Serengeti across the border in Tanzania and straight past the camp itself, which can be quite impressive. Bear in mind, though, that these movements are not migration river crossings in the usual meaning of wildebeest swimming across the Mara River: the Sand River is mostly shallow and easily forded by the herds.
Although we didn’t stay here on our last visit, we feel that Sand River is a very comfortable well-run camp and it’s in a great spot to witness the wildebeest migration during the months of July to September. Although this area will get busy in peak season, we still expect it to be quieter than other parts of the National Reserve.
Country manager: Kenya
- Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- 3 or 4 nights
- There are daily flights from Nairobi to Keekorok Airstrip and it’s a further 45-minute drive to the camp
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- On our last stay at Sand River in 2017, we found the food perfectly fine, but not particularly imaginative. We understand since the 2019 total revamp of the camp that standards have greatly improved.
- Attitude towards children
- Children of all ages are welcome at Sand River Camp
- Property’s age restrictions
- There is no age restriction
- Special activities & services
- Books are provided for painting and drawing, and board games are available. The staff often invite children to play football in the riverbed when dry.
- Cots and highchairs are provided
- Generally recommended for children
- Due to the camp being unfenced, and in a big game area, we recommend it for older children.
- Parents should note that this camp is not fenced, and big game often wanders through camp. Children must always be under adult supervision.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Sand River Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Sand River Camp have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- Solar is only provided for hot water. It is possible to charge batteries in the tents.
- WiFi is available throughout the camp, however there is poor cellphone signal in the area.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Filtered drinking water is provided in the tents.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is a clinical officer in the camp and when we visited in 2019 the staff were receiving first aid training. For more serious cases the nearest hospital is in Sekenani at the reserve main gate.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Resident askaris (guards) are on duty day and night. Guests must be escorted from their rooms after dark.
- Fire safety
- Each tent has a fire extinguisher
Hot air ballooning
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is included in the rates. It is machine-washed.
- There is a digital safe in each tent
- Accepted payment on location
- Visa, Mastercard and Amex are accepted with no additional cost. US dollars, euros, Pounds sterling and Kenya shillings cash accepted.
Other lodges in Maasai Mara National Reserve
Alternative places to stay in this same area.